Appreciation: Arne H. Fjeldstad
In the world of journalism, Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad was a rarity.
He was a journalist and among others, Night Editor, at Norway’s largest newspaper Aftenposten or The Evening Post for more than twenty years.
And, he was an ordained Lutheran minister in the local Norwegian parishes. He was the International Coordinator and Editor for World Evangelization, the magazine of the Lausanne Movement, a global effort that mobilizes evangelical leaders to collaborate for Christian missions since 1974.
He earned his doctorate degree in ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1997 for a dissertation on the possible growth of online churches, still early in the age of Internet. He also served as an Anglican minister in the Middle East and North Africa where he published a monthly magazine.
Born in the ancient Israelite coastal city of Joppa or Jaffa in 1957, Dr. Fjeldstad was son of Rev. Torstein Fjeldstad, the founder of Mission Behind the Iron Curtain or Norwegian Mission to the East. It is now known as Stefanus Alliance International, a Christian missions and human rights organization based in Oslo, Norway.
In his later years, Dr. Fjeldstad chaired Gegrapha, a global network of Christians in mainstream media. And he was the CEO of The Media Project, a Washington D.C.-based institution that helps mainstream journalists worldwide to cover religion as an essential dimension of public life.
When I heard about Dr. Fjeldstad’s very unexpected passing at his home in Kristiansand, Norway at 4 p.m. on November 23, 2014, I just wrapped up a Christian media symposium in the northeast suburbs of Beijing, China at 5 p.m. on November 24. The email was from Ms. Caroline Comport, Dr. Fjeldstad’s colleague at The Media Project.
Dr. Fjeldstad would have flown to Seoul later that day to run a seminar for Christian journalists in South Korea. He even would have flown to China. Back in August, Dr. Fjeldstad and I discussed the possibility of having an event in Hong Kong for Chinese Christian journalists before or after South Korea. The China conference was rescheduled to some time in 2015. But I will not be able to meet Dr. Fjeldstad in Hong Kong or anywhere here on this earth.
The first time I saw Dr. Fjeldstad was on May 22-24, 2008, when he invited me to attend my first ever international conference of Christian journalists working in mainstream media. That was in Sydney, Australia, where I also met Dr. David Aikman, a former Time magazine bureau chief in Beijing, the founder of Gegrapha and Professor of History at Patrick Henry College in Virginia, United States. It was with Dr. Aikman’s recommendation that I got to know Dr. Fjeldstad. Before that, I had been in contact with Dr. Aikman and his colleague and later his wife, Ms. Charlene Fu, a former Associated Press correspondent in Beijing.
In Sydney, Dr. Fjeldstad asked me if I would be interested in an international symposium on religion and politics in Washington D.C. to be held in late July and early August in the same year. Just a day after the Sydney gathering, I received a letter of invitation from Ms. Comport. Up to then, I did not expect I would have the honor of meeting Dr. Fjeldstad and some international colleagues at least once a year in different places on this globe between 2008 and 2013.